Mason’s Mindful Eating

Mason loves to eat. He has always been cooking, trying new recipes and flavours, and would never turn down a treat. He makes an effort to eat a healthy breakfast and pack his lunches the night before. By the time dinner time rolls around, he often finds himself eating quick bites between trying to feed his two young children – one of whom is running off to get to her toys and the other has taken an interest in playing with the dog. Mason is determined to have family meals, however, so he’s found the solution – turn the TV on so that everyone is amused and sitting at the table. Once the munchkins have gone to bed, Mason enjoys his “me” time where he dives into his ritual treat – a bowl of chips and bag of chocolate chips to snack on while he watches a movie. The first handful of chips tastes amazing, and then somehow halfway through the movie he looks down and notices the entire bag of chips is gone. And half the chocolate chips. He honestly can’t remember the last bite he took; however, his chip-stained hands and empty bowl provide proof that it happened. Disappointment sets in, he’s made such an effort to fuel his body properly all day and now he feels like he’s wasted it all.

As we make an effort to unplug and remove ourselves from the increasing technology we have at our fingertips, have we considered how these may be affecting our relationship with food? Almost every one of my clients has expressed an unhealthy habit they’ve had with food. We’ve all been there, whether it be late night snacking, portion control at meals, or obsessively counting calories to manage their weight. The discussion around mindful, or intuitive, eating is complex and multifactorial. The way we eat is rooted in our values, beliefs, culture and family history. The recipe for mindful eating calls for the warming effect of kindness and the spice of curiosity. There’s no quick fix to altering our eating habits; however, these tips can be a great start to getting back in tune with your hunger cues.

  1. Think like a kid

Children have an amazing ability to self-regulate their hunger cues. Watch a child eat their next meal, they will choose their foods carefully as they learn their preferences. And if they’re full when dinner is done? They likely won’t want the dessert placed in front of them, they would rather go and play. Children are also great at pacing themselves. In North America, we often eat quickly in front of our desks at lunch, or scarf down dinner because we’ve let ourselves become over hungry. Now, watch how long it takes a child to eat. This is often another source of frustration for parents, waiting around at the dinner table while their child’s carrot stick has become an impromptu airplane buzzing above their plate. This lengthy eating time allows their body time to signal to their brain once they’re full. So go ahead, think like a kid again and enjoy a slow, mindful meal!

  1. Take 30 (seconds)

Beginning to eat mindfully can quickly feel like a daunting task. Where to start? What if I fail? The great aspect of taking control of your eating habits is that there’s no wrong, or right, way to do it. One day you might feel like you’re fully in control, and the next you’re at a birthday party and can’t seem to moderate yourself – and that’s okay. Accepting that you’re not always going to be perfect is the first step to intuitive eating. Try this: at your next meal, take 30 seconds to make sure your environment is distraction free – shut off the TV, put your phone away etc. Then, smell the aromas of your meal, and finally take a bite. How does it taste? Is it cold, hot, crunchy, sweet, smooth? Really enjoy that bite and stay present in the moment. Congratulations, you’ve just begun your intuitive eating journey!

  1. Find an accountability buddy

How we eat is very closely linked to whom we’re eating with, and that can be an asset or a hindrance at meal times. For example, Mason could use his partner as an ally at dinner. Halfway through the meal, she could remind him to take a mindful bite and check in with his hunger cues. To clarify, this shouldn’t be confused with using your accountability buddy to tell you to stop eating halfway through the meal, which may create hostility. They simply serve as a reminder to check in with your personal hunger cues. Whether this be your spouse, sibling or as a last resort, an alarm on your phone – having a physical reminder to get in touch with your hunger while eating is especially helpful when you’re starting your intuitive eating journey.

Mason’s next meal will be the start of regaining control over his eating habits. He will be kind with himself and allow his body and mind to be fully immersed in the flavours, textures, colours and smells. Not sure how to integrate this into your lifestyle? Seek guidance from a nutrition professional in regaining control of your relationship with food. Food should be uncomplicated and pleasurable – cheers to healthy habits!